Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 115
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for November 29, 2001

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

It seems that the City of Warrensburg is pondering staffing and service cuts along with fee increases in order to overcome a fiscal crisis. If the story I read is accurate, even with cuts the city will be $2.5 million in the hole in three years. The reason staff is even contemplating cuts is that the City Council finally stood up and said “enough.” My question is: where was the council when previous surpluses were being spent?

The current problems are blamed in part on the deficits run by the Community Center. That’s the fancy building that Warrensburg voters approved a sales tax to build and turned down a property tax to run. If I remember correctly, the operating expenses and utilities exceeded the estimates by a notable margin. They’ve talked about a solution for years and haven’t developed one. Has anyone taken responsibility for this debacle?

The other major contributor to the deficit, we’re told, is the ambulance service. It appears that it was expected to run at a break-even level, despite good evidence that it would have to be subsidized by taxpayers, as most private or government-run ambulance services are. Now, the choices are to deny service to people living outside the city limits or to create an ambulance district with a new property tax. The soonest the latter could provide relief would be 2003. This was another serious miscalculation by the city. Has anyone taken responsibility for this debacle?

The real reason the city is insolvent is poor financial planning. Financial projections assumed that prosperity and growth would go on forever. Like many people, the city has spent its savings and run up the “credit cards.” I think it’s fair to ask who is being held responsible. I think it’s fair to ask incumbent councilpersons seeking reelection where they were while the financial situation was deteriorating. I think it’s fair to ask the challengers what they’d do to assign responsibility and take corrective action. And I think the voters would do well to watch their answers carefully.

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